Those of you who are responsible for new business have all experienced losing a new business opportunity that you a) really wanted, and b) fully expected to win.
As specialists in Win-Loss Analysis, this is something we deal with daily on behalf of our clients, who want, need and expect to know why they didn’t win – what are the measurable business factors that led to this disappointment and loss?
Fortunately, we ourselves don’t often deal with this sort of loss; credit the excellent resources that help us avoid that – (in posts to come soon, I will be highlighting some of those resources). But occasionally we do lose, and when that happens, it’s both a blessing and a curse. You might be curious about the “blessing” part – where is the value in probing the troubling and perhaps searing loss that just occurred?
To illustrate, it’s useful to point out the emotions I feel as a sales leader in my own organization when we lose a deal we expect to win. It’s almost a grieving process where you go through waves of thoughts and emotions – shock, disbelief, denial, anger, reconciliation, healing, and finally, some learnings that lead to corrective behavior and methods moving forward. There’s enough here for several white papers, but here’s the short version.
When the sad news comes, I feel momentarily stunned. Then I start sifting through the reasons that are offered as to why we weren’t selected. The cognitive machinery kicks in and I start thinking about whether those reasons even make sense. Anger and vindictiveness follow. “They’ll see”, I ruminate, “After they’ve spent enough time with the other guys, they’ll see what a mistake they’ve made”. It gets worse – the judgment about the prospect’s decision falls under even more severe scrutiny – I begin to wonder why, in light of our stellar proposal, team, approach, methodology, etc., anyone would not select us. They shouldn’t even have to wait weeks or months for the winning firm to disappoint them to recognize the bad decision they’ve just made! Of course this is all just head trash.
I gather myself (this sometimes takes a day or two) and remember the over-arching reality of the situation. This is when I remember why we are so passionate about Win Loss Analysis. I remind myself of the golden secret of business opportunity loss.
The golden secret has two parts:
1. In the wake of loss, there are some vital truths about the prospect’s decision that will absolutely lead to better results in the future
2. These vital truths are not revealed in the story the prospect just told about why the decision was made
It’s not that there is no truth in their statement; often most of the prospect’s story is reliable. The value in a formal, disciplined, Win-Loss inquiry is that you get to the subtle truths that become the keys to future success.
In the interest of “eating my own dog food”, I engage in this process (of course using a third party), and never fail to see the value in terms of improving my strategy, approach and execution. And that, in a nut-shell, is the aforementioned blessing.
I enjoy conversations about these matters of redemption following loss in sales and business development.